Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sukkot Part I

We have just completed an action packed and wonderful Sukkot that quite literally went out with a bang – but more about that in part II. Celebrating one day of Yom Tov instead of two took no time getting used to at all. We made the most of our full week of Chol Hamoed. We spent a day on a honey farm, danced at music festivals, canoed down the Jordan, rode camels, hiked, swam, flew kites at a kite festival, and explored caves. But probably the most important tiyul – trip – that we took was the one we did today. A few weeks ago when we were on a tour of Efrat, I asked about seeing the hill called "the Eitam." While much of Efrat is settled and beautiful, there are still several parts that are not. Tamar and Dagan both have families living in caravans on them, but there is nothing yet on the Eitam. In the original plans for Efrat, the Eitam is expected to house more than half of the entire population of Efrat. Problem is that it is on the wrong side of the proposed security fence. Ironically, as the chief Rabbi of Efrat -- Rabbi Riskin explained, they settled the other areas of Efrat first as they were smaller and further from Jerusalem. They felt that those were the hardest parts to settle and so they went there first. They never dreamed that they would be told that they could not build on Eitam. Now it is a dream that we will be able to lay even one stone. Even as I write there are people in Efrat planning to do just that in spite of it all, but with great effort. When I asked to see the hill, I knew none of this. I had heard that the Eitam was beautiful – the Switzerland of the Gush – and so I wanted to see it and dream that I could have a space to build a home one day. My inquiry about Eitam turned into a full fledged program and ceremony that took place today. The program was meant to include live music, food, and festivities, yet we quickly realized that it was much more than that. While we were waiting with the other cars in the motorcade to begin the trip to the Eitam, the lady in front of us gave us a tip. She said to go slowly as there would be some “potholes” along the way. Ok, I lived in New York, I can do potholes. What she did not say was that by potholes she meant boulders and craters on unpaved dirt roads that went through some rather unfriendly neighborhoods. And just in case our 20+ car motorcade was not getting enough attention from the Arabs watching us go by, my breaks were loud enough to alert the whole village. There were plenty of soldiers along the way, and my mother who was visiting, reassured me that they were so handsome that we would definitely be fine. As if they could stupefy any dangerous Arab with a single grin or flexing of their muscles. There was one soldier though that looked very scary and I was happy that he was on our team. I wouldn’t want to mess with that dude. The car ride there was a little nerve wrecking to say the least, but the arrival onto the Eitam was glorious. A huge Israeli flag was flowing down the side of the mountain. The children and some adults were carrying Israeli flags and Orange "Am Yisrael L'Eretz Yisrael" flags. There were photographers and soldiers and music. At the top, the views were spectacular. After we had some falafel we heard from the mayor of Efrat, the chief Rabbi and some others. They explained the history of Eitam, how and why it is beyond a doubt Jewish property, and the frustration of not being able to build on it yet. We hoped and prayed that we would be able to build there in the near future. I had not realized it when I signed up for this, but we were actually making a political statement and making history by being a part of this excursion. We were going there to declare that this land is rightfully ours and we are not going to give it up. We sang and we danced with soldiers standing guard and reporters writing notes. All this because I wanted to see a nice place that I could build a home for my family.

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